While our well-fed politicians constantly debate religion and caste – high up in the Himalayas, where each passing day is a losing battle against mom nature, in the alpine meadows, zero-hour is usually dedicated to the debate on goats versus sheep.
While sheep are better propositions economically, ask any experienced grazer and he will prefer to walk with goats. Perhaps because they are more sure footed. Perhaps shaggy goats in the flock of sheep act as an incentive for the sheep to grow an even more luxurious fleece. Or, perhaps, they are independent-minded and better survivors of the cold and rain. After a good fight, goats will usually land on their feet, while at least one of the combatant sheep will succumb, twisting its neck after a fall. Goats often signal the presence of leopards by pawing the ground, while sheep will meekly shut their eyes and allow themselves to be carried away.
Goat or sheep, this ancient way of life where a shepherd can walk up to 50 km a day, is disappearing even quicker than a hug and wink. The shepherds of the high Himalayas are as much a threatened species as the snow leopard. High time we did something to rescue these daring men, formidable mountain guides and repositories of knowledge, from the verge of extinction.